The US remained steadfast in its commitment to Afghanistan’s leadership on Friday after the Taliban demanded President Ashraf Ghani’s removal.

The hardline group insisted in an interview with The Associated Press that Ghani must be removed, and a new negotiated government created in Kabul as a condition before any peace deal can be reached.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters US President Joe Biden “supports the leadership of the Afghan people, including Ashraf Ghani” after the bombshell demand was made.

“We believe a political solution is the only outcome to lasting peace in Afghanistan. But we will continue to provide support to the government in the form of humanitarian support, security support, training, and we’ll also encourage them to take a leading role in defending and protecting their own people,” she said.

Biden was scheduled to speak with Ghani by telephone on Friday, and a readout of the call was expected later in the day.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told the AP that the extremist group will lay down its arms only when a negotiated government is seated in the Afghan capital and Ghani is ousted.

“I want to make it clear that we do not believe in the monopoly of power because any governments who (sought) to monopolize power in Afghanistan in the past, were not successful governments,” said Shaheen. “So we do not want to repeat that same formula.”

The comments come as the US process to depart Afghanistan is more than 95% complete ahead of an expected completion by the end of August. Biden ordered the withdrawal in April, bringing an end to the US’s longest war.

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